Friday, December 24, 2010

Still in Florida !

Key Biscayne, FL
No Name Harbor 25 40.55 N 080 9.70 W

Merry Xmas to our friends and family!  Yes…. we are still in Florida!

We have spent the past 2 weeks waiting for a favorable weather window to cross. The strong cold fronts that have impacted the southeast US & Florida over the past 2-3 weeks have made it difficult to get any favorable weather windows for a Gulf Stream crossing to the Bahamas. We need to cross in either no winds or winds from a southerly to westerly angle. North & east winds produce steep waves against the Gulf Stream current. What happens in the winter down here is a cold front pushes south bringing strong northerly winds for 4-5 days before they gradually clock around. Favorable departure windows have just been too narrow. After spending almost a week in Key Biscayne sitting out a front in No Name Harbor we decided we needed a change in venue and traveled down to Tarpon Basin (25 7.59N, 080 25.15W) in Key Largo to wait out the passage of yet another cold front. Overnight temps were in the low 40’s and day temps in the low 60’s for a few days. As the front cleared and winds clocked into the southeast a short weather window was opened and we made an attempt to cross the Gulf Stream last Thursday. We departed through Angelfish Creek (25 20.11N, 080 15.40W) early Thursday morning but after bashing into winds / waves on our bow for 4 miles we turned around. We returned to No Name Harbor in Key Biscayne frustrated with the waiting and agonizing over “go or no-go” each time. So we decided to take yet a different approach and go to Key West for New Year's with hope that weather patterns change afterwards. After making that decision we heard from Kathy’s son and daughter in law that they would like to spend Christmas week through New Year’s with us. They will be flying into West Palm Beach and renting a car to meet up with us so we decided to wait around the greater Miami area through Christmas until they arrive on Sun. 12/26. Since we have time and sailed past Miami on our way south we decided to backtrack a bit and check out Miami Beach. We spent 3 days in protected Sunset Harbor (25 47.98N, 080 8.43W) which made it very easy to do some exploring and people watching in South Beach. We returned back to No Name Harbor earlier this week for our third stay. There are many other cruisers in our same predicament waiting for a crossing window so we have a small community of cruisers here and have made many new friends. Today is Christmas Eve and we will spend it here with other cruisers. There is a possible crossing window tomorrow that some of the other folks are considering. We will head back to Miami tomorrow before taking a slip at Miamarina in downtown Miami (25 46.72N, 080 11.14W) on Sunday to prepare for Jay and Veronica’s arrival. There is yet another strong cold front coming in for Sunday into Tuesday. We'll sail down through the Keys for New Year's Eve in Key West together. After that…who knows.

We wish you all a great holiday as well and a healthy and happy New Year!!! Mark & Kathy
The original African Queen parked
dockside in Key Largo

All kinds of pets on other folks boats!

Mango enjoying some
Christmas egg nog & brandy

Mike Taylor 
Solo sailing for over 32 years on
"Wind and the Willows"

Art deco hotels of South Beach

Allan & Mary from S/V Mystical

Miami skyline from Biscayne Bay

Merry Christmas All !

Friday, December 10, 2010

Delray Beach, FL - Key Biscayne, FL

Key Biscayne, FL
No Name Harbor 25 40.55 N 080 9.70 W

On Thursday 12/2, after 2 wonderful weeks in Delray Beach, we said our goodbyes to both Peg & Paul, and Mattie & Ed and continued south down the ICW. We motored through 4 bridges within a distance of only 8 miles before anchoring in Lake Boca (26 20.78N, 80 4.35W) in Boca Raton, FL.

Anchored in Lake Boca
 It was another sunny, 80 degree day. The water temp was 75 degrees and extremely clear/ clean due to its proximity to the Boca ocean inlet. Mark took advantage of the clear water to clean the propellers, change the prop zincs and clean the slime growth off both hull bottoms.

Friday we transited 8 more bridges along the ICW on our way to Ft Lauderdale. In our 1000 miles of travel down the ICW we have certainly seen our share of homes that could be described as picturesque, stately or opulent. Nothing can compare to home after home we passed along the ICW from Boca Raton down to Ft Lauderdale. The amount of material wealth on display is just beyond comprehension.
Some typical homes along the ICW between Boca Raton- Ft Lauderdale

Lake Sylvia anchorage
 Arriving in Ft Lauderdale, we anchored in a small cove called Lake Sylvia (26 6.25N, 80 6.70W) rimmed with more beautiful homes and in view of high rise condos, hotels and mega-yachts. We shared the anchorage with a number of Canadian flagged cruising boats waiting their own weather window to jump across to the Bahamas.

Kathy & Ted with view north
from his condo in Hollywood Beach
We were able to meet up with our friend Ted Bowen who is renting a condo on Hollywood Beach. We last saw Ted back in 2007 when vacationing on his Manta power cat in St Martin. He picked us up and we spent the day with him visiting and catching up on the past 3 years. We walked the Hollywood Beach boardwalk, and took in the annual nighttime Christmas Candy Cane Parade after a delicious sushi dinner on the boardwalk.

17th St Bridge with Port Everglades
and cruise ships in background
  Sunday 12/5 we departed Lake Sylvia catching the 9AM opening for the 17th St Causeway Bridge. This was our final bridge and marked the end of our ICW travels. Passing under the bridge we made our way into the commercial harbor of Port Everglades. There were 8 cruise liners tied up preparing for their evening departure.

Sailing down the coast 
 We exited the Port Everglades channel into deep turquoise blue ocean water and did something we have not had the opportunity to do in about 2 months. For the 1st time since the Chesapeake Bay we actually raised sails and had a great sail down the coast past mile after mile of high rise apartment/condo buildings. 
Walking the beach in Key Biscayne

 Our destination was Key Biscayne where needed to wait out a cold front and associated strong northerly winds before getting a good weather window to cross the Gulf Stream. We split our time between two harbors... We spent the first 3 days/ nights in Hurricane Harbor (25 41.15N, 80 10.36W). The cold front came through last Sunday night and for the next 3 days we had a taste of Florida winter. It got down to 47 degrees at night. Nevertheless we stayed toasty under quilts and fired up the generator to run the reverse-air heat to warm things up each morning.    
Carina anchored in No Name Harbor

On Wed. we moved about 2 miles down to No Name Harbor in Bill Baggs State Park at the southern end of Key Biscayne. This is a small, very well protected harbor where many cruisers wait before making the crossing to the Bahamas. It has the necessary cruiser amenities.... a pump out station, a laundromat, garbage disposal and a bar/ restaurant called the Boater's Grille that overlooks the harbor. We strolled along bike trails and a beautiful beach and visited the lighthouse. As usual, we also got acquainted with our other anchored cruiser neighbors and enjoyed a nice Cuban dinner at the Boater’s Grill with 2 other couples from nearby catamarans. Ted also drove down from Hollywood on Thursday for one last visit and was gracious enough to take us to the grocery store. He gave us a nice tour of Key Biscayne before bringing us back to the boat.  
Atop the Cape Florida lighthouse in
Bill Baggs State Park, Key Biscayne

View north from Cape Florida
lighthouse towards Miami Beach

We have been watching the weather closely as yet another strong cold front is approaching this Sunday. Yesterday it looked as though we might have a short weather window to get over to Bimini on Saturday. It doesn’t look quite as good today with slightly stronger northerly winds predicted. It is never a good idea to bet against Mother Nature so we decided to wait for a better weather window which now appears to be a week from now )next Thu 12/16. There is no need to hurry across as there is so much to explore right here in the upper Keys. We will probably head down towards Key Largo tomorrow and see what happens. It’s so great not to have a schedule!!!